Cotton Planting Conditions May 11, 2020

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Keith Edmisten, Professor of Crop Science & Soil Sciences and Extension Cotton Specialist

Guy Collins, Extension Associate Professor – Cotton

Soil temperature at a 3-inch depth was 62 degrees at 8 a.m. this morning (May 11). You can see how the variation in soil temperature across the state in Figure 1. It is a little surprising that the soil temperatures are as high as they are with the weather we have been having. The low nighttime temperatures predicted for today through Wednesday night do not look good to maintain these marginal soil temperatures though (Table 1).

Figure 1. Soil temperatures at 8 a.m. on May 11, 2020.

Current conditions

The DD60’s predicted for the 10 days following planting at Rocky Mount are included in the table below. Conditions are poor until Wednesday, May 13, and don’t look great until Thursday, May 14. Although the DD60 accumulation makes May 13 looks good, you should be cautious planting that day because of the previous cold temperatures and the low predicted nighttime temperature that night. Farther south in the state planting Wednesday might be marginal. Look for soil temperatures to rise above 65 degrees to weather the cool night. Conditions from Thursday, May 14 through May 24 look very good.

Table 1. Predicted planting conditions on May 11, 2020.

Predicted planting conditions

Conditions can change quickly as these predictions are based on a 10-day weather forecast. The first 6 days are based on the National Weather Service and the last 8 days are based on predictions from

The table above is for Rocky Mount and based on the 14-day forecast. We include this as a general guide. As spring weather forecasts can often differ across the state, we strongly encourage you to get a more local forecast that can be easily updated daily using the new NC State University Cotton Planting Conditions Calculator. The calculator can be found on the Cotton website under the link “Calculators and Decision Aids” on the left side toolbar, or directly at the Cotton Planting Conditions Calculator page. We encourage growers to use and monitor the calculator twice daily to account for potential changes in weather forecasts for your region or farm. Simply click on your farm location on the map, and click “submit” for your local planting conditions forecast.

You can see below that the 8-14 day (May 18-24) forecast predicts above normal temperatures and precipitation.

Temperature probability

Precipitation probability

N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Cotton Seed Quality Database: The database can be found on the Cotton website under the link “Calculators and Decision Aids” on the left side toolbar, or directly at NCDA&CS Cotton Seed Quality Database. As we have stated in previous articles, it is absolutely critical to know the seed quality for all seed lots that you purchase. If you have a complaint regarding poor emergence during planting season, the first thing that we or our county agents will ask for is the NCDA&CS germination test results. Without these results, there is little we can do to help you.  Therefore, MAKE SURE your seed have at least been sampled by NCDA&CS as soon as you have your lot numbers available. If a sample has not been collected yet by an NCDA&CS seed inspector, contact Brian Bowers (, 919-707-3756) at NCDA&CS immediately, and he will notify local seed inspectors to collect a sample for you as soon as reasonably possible. It’s important to note that NCDA&CS Official Sampling of seed quality requires that seed bags or containers to remain unopened, and the inspectors must be the first to open the bag/container to collect the sample, in order for the test results to be considered during seed complaints. If bags or containers have been opened, downstream seed treatments, etc. then a test can still be conducted only as service sample, but not as an official sample. Given that this program is voluntary, there may be some seed lots that come into NC without notification to NCDA&CS. Therefore it is imperative that growers check the database and notify NCDA&CS promptly so that samples can be collected and germ tests completed.